American Can Company

From Ohio History Central

The American Can Company was established in 1901 by a group of astute businessmen who recognized the opportunity for growth in the container industry due to the increased demand for cans for products like paint and tobacco and for ‘sanitary’ cans for convenience foods. By aggressively buying out rival companies, American Can Company effectively eliminated competition and at the same time acquired the latest industrial technology. The dominance of American Can within its market was rapid and extraordinary. By 1917, it ranked thirty-first largest among the nation’s top 500 companies. In comparison, its closest rival, Continental Can ranked 222nd. Innovations attributed to American Can include developing a crimping technique for the tops and bottoms of cans, eliminating the use of solder, the use of enamel lining to protect food from discoloration, double tight friction cover for paint cans that prevented hardening of left-over paint and perfecting the process for vacuum-packing coffee.

The American Can Company building, constructed in 1921, represents the development of the modern reinforced concrete factory building first created by architect Albert Kahn in 1907 for the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit. This construction method transitioned away from the use of wood for factory walls, roofs and supports to the use of reinforced concrete which meant better fire protection and allowed the use of heavy machinery in industrial buildings. The modern factory with open floor plans and abundant light through multiple spacious windows met the needs of industry for efficient manufacturing, improved production and the management of workers. The American Can building also displays visual elements of the Commercial architectural style which prevailed for tall commercial and industrial buildings at the turn of the twentieth century. This style is typified by pronounced vertical and horizontal façade elements, large symmetrical steel windows and two or three part structural vertical sections visible on the exterior elevations of the building.

The American Can Company building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of properties recognized by the federal government as worthy of preservation for their local, state, or national significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture. The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program, administered at the statewide level by each state’s respective State Historic Preservation Office. In Ohio the State Historic Preservation Office is a division of the Ohio History Connection ( The American Can Company is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places for its significant association with the growth of American industry as one of the nation’s largest can manufacturers and as an intact and important example of an historic reinforced concrete industrial complex executed in the Commercial architectural style.

Beginning in 2007, the American Can Company building underwent rehabilitation to convert it to residential and commercial use. The project utilized the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit which provides a 25 percent tax credit for the rehabilitation expenses to owners of historically significant buildings. The project also received Federal tax incentives that provided an additional 20 percent credit. For both programs, rehabilitation work is reviewed by the Ohio History Connection in its role as the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to ensure that it meets the Secretary of Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation. The industrial character of the American Can building was retained through the repair of the industrial steel sash windows and cleaning, repairing and repointing of the exterior masonry where needed. Overall the renovation project was a $20 million investment and employed 95 tradesman during the construction. The American Can Lofts, as the building is now known, has 110 apartments and reflects the demand for market-rate apartments currently being seen across Ohio’s urban centers.